Whilst researching our book, we came across lots of conspiracy-type theories about hidden letters and words in the Waite-Smith Tarot.
These included the word “Julie” on the Hanged Man, the Hebrew letter “Shin” on the Fool, or the word “Love” underneath Pamela’s signature on the Sun card.
Other people saw the Hebrew letter “Heh” on the Ace of Cups, amongst other letters on other cards.
We were fortunate to be provided high-resolution scans of the original decks, PAM-A, PAM-B, etc. including the very rarest deck, the first deck published, referred to as “Rose & Lilies”.
We looked at the very high resolution detail of these images, and we also considered the relevance of a given letter to its card. “Heh” makes sense for the Water element of the Ace of Cups, but “Shin” is neither a correspondence for the Fool in the GD system nor Waite’s later variant system.
We also looked at how Pamela quickly sketched in her figures, folds and clothing, and how these might appear to be letters when there was no suggestion of such nor obvious reason.
Here is the supposed “Julie” on the Hanged Man. We have zoomed, cropped and rotated it, from the lower part of the blue shirt that rests on his right thigh.
We can see that on closer inspection it is highly uncertain that it is anything more than a random design feature to show folds. It might appear to be “Julie” when reduced on a card, but even so, such implicit and uncertain detail would never have been picked up by later line illustrators who created the later versions of the deck, following the PAM-A.
However, there is one certain place where Waite would have had a hand and Pamela knowledge enough of the relevant ritual to include a Hebrew design, which is on the Temperance card.
Here we clearly see – and there is a lot of reason for it – the divine name YHVH in Hebrew, reading right to left, Yod – Heh – Vau – Heh. We see how Pamela has picked up the Hebrew character ‘swirl’ to the lettering, particularly the “yod” component of the second Heh.
We know that YHVH, the four elements, would have been of great significance for the Angel of Temperance, however, we can also pick this up from Waite’s second Tarot images, the Waite-Trinick Tarot.
Yes! A. E. Waite designed a SECOND tarot set, ten years after his public deck drawn and co-designed by Pamela Colman Smith! It was kept secret and the originals were later re-discovered by Tali Goodwin in the vaults of the British Library.
You can read all about A. E. Waite’s second secret tarot in our book, Abiding in the Sanctuary, with colour images of the Major Arcana from Waite’s secret brotherhood.
In all versions of Temperance in this second tarot set, drawn by the stained glass artist, J. B. Trinick, never intended for public viewing, Waite was free to indicate the position of the Angel on the Tree of Life.
As the Angel corresponds to the middle pillar and the path of Pe, in Waite’s secret system stretching between Hod and Netzach (as well as Chesed and Geburah as we see in this detail), it unites the four elements of the divine name YHVH.
In a reading, then, this detail can be considered to tell us that the querent must bring together all four elements of their life at this time – emotional, intellectual, physical and their imagination.
They must create a new mixture from their own elements – literally, mix it up a bit. This is a very alchemical card and the Hebrew letters give us a clue as to its application in a reading.
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Learn More about the meanings of this card in everyday readings in Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot and over at our free sister-site, My Tarot Card Meanings where you can also download a free guide to card meanings and spreads, Keys to the Tarot by Andrea Green.